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Garden Therapy for Reducing Anxiety, Stress and Depression

Horticulture Therapy Comes With Many Health Benefits

Yep. It can be that simple. Not one and done but more as a regular practice. Studies show that garden therapy — AKA horticulture therapy — can be a most beneficial solution for stress relief, anxiety and even depression. In fact, gardeners tend to be healthier, happier and live longer.

So it seems that it’s more than just ready access to the healthiest food on the planet in the form of garden-to-table fresh foods.

If you’re a gardener, then you already know about garden therapy benefits. Chances are your garden is already your happy place. Of course there are always exceptions to every generality, but given the natural course of life, studies show that gardeners do tend to live longer, healthier and happier lives.

Gardeners tend to be healthier, happier and live longer. The garden is their happy place.

Gardeners tend to be healthier, happier and live longer. The garden is their happy place.

Gardening Therapy Helps Us Get Through Covid-19

More people are considering gardening now than ever before. Not just for food but also for the peace of mind that comes from gardening and being out in nature. Coleman reflects on that in this brief video from our cattle panel greenhouse.

Gardening Therapy Performs Better than Occupational Therapy

A 2015 study revealed that Horticulture Therapy (HT)—aka gardening—got better results than standard Occupational Therapy (OT). Gardening decreased cortisol levels and depressive symptoms, more than the programs in which the OT group participated.[1]

Had a rough day? Head to the Garden! Gardening is a healthy, therapeutic exercise that’s good for body, mind and soul.

Gardening provides stress relief, lowers cortisol (stress hormone) and cultivates a more positive outlook.
~2015 Study on alternative therapies in health and medicine

Gardening provides stress relief, lowers cortisol (stress hormone) and cultivates a more positive outlook.~2015 Study on alternative therapies in health and medicine.

When You Don’t Have a Garden

We sometimes hear from folks who used to garden, but moved to a smaller home with less—or no—space. These displaced gardeners talk about how much they miss gardening. Others talk about fond memories being children in the garden with their parents or grandparents.

If you’re one of those who longs to garden, but have limited space, you could consider patio or balcony gardening. These days you can find all kinds of garden planters and plant towers good for indoor and outdoor gardening.

RELATED: Flowers for balconies and Patio Balcony Garden Ideas

Gardeners going through winter gardening withdrawals, make do by tending indoor plants. Even growing seedlings, sprouts and things like microgreens, provide gardening therapy that lifts the spirits.

One community Planting for Retirement community member, Becky Craft, is filling up her greenhouse with seed starts. In winter, she’s counting the days to spring, but meanwhile gets her “dirt fix” in the greenhouse.

If you want to start small with a greenhouse and are able to put in a little work you can make your own cattle panel greenhouse fairly simply.

I’ve gotta have my dirt fix every day… the smell of dirt… one of my favorite I’m a country gal to the bone.
~Becky Craft, market gardener

Gardeners are Healthier and Happier

Beyond gardening therapy from the soil, exercise, fresh air and nature, there’s the nutrition factor if you’re also growing food. Fruit and vegetable gardeners are likely to be healthier because of a steady supply of the freshest possible food on the planet. Certainly that’s one of the most important benefits of gardening. Others enjoy gardening for exercise and garden therapy for reducing stress, anxiety and depression.

It’s great that scientific and clinical studies are proving what gardeners already know: there are many more benefits to gardening than the obvious ready access to the freshest, healthiest foods possible.

Antidepressants in Your Garden Soil

Scientist have discovered a natural antidepressant in soil responsible for elevating serotonin, your happy hormone. These happy soil critters are microbes called called Mycobacterium vaccae, and have been found to mirror the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide.

YES! They work as well as drugs but without the nasty side effects.

Besides making you happier and improving mental health, these antidepressant microbes boost your immune system and there may be more. Studies are underway on Mycobacterium for possible benefits to improving cognitive function and diseases like Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.[2]

The Health Benefits of Gardening

  • Healthier diet[3]
  • Reduces stress[4]
  • Reduces depression[5]
  • More positive outlook[6]
  • Provides exercise and cultivates an active outdoor lifestyle[7]
  • Digging in the dirt promotes better physical and emotional health[8]
  • Regular access to fresh air and Sunshine for vitamins D and K[9]
  • Improved state of mind, more focused on growth[10]
  • A spiritual connection[11]

For some, gardening brings greater feelings of spirituality.

“The flower serves all around her, by simply doing what she’s here to do. Grow.”
~LeAura Alderson,

Gardening therapy. The flower serves all around her be doing what she's here to do. To grow. #GardeningTherapy #GardenQuote #GardenMeme #Garden #Gardening
Gardening is the gardener’s canvas.

Gardening Stokes the Spirit

Gardeners understand gardening therapy. No matter your religious or spiritual background, we all feel more connected to something greater in nature. Simply observing nature and the miracles of the garden can be a magical, mystical and even spiritual experience.

This deep connection with nature is one of the reasons gardening therapy is a beneficial natural remedy for stress, anxiety, and depression.

Fresh air, open sky and green growing things. There’s something about being out in the garden… many somethings, actually, that refresh the spirit, soothe the soul and nurture the heart.

It’s a miracle that a vine can produce a huge melon… that a scrawny tomato with green leaves can produce bright red and plump tomatoes. How one seed can produce a tree that produces thousands upon thousands of other seeds through its fruit and through nuts… it’s an every day miracle.

The ecosystem of the garden is naturally fine-tuned to do its part to contribute, without any visible instruction manual. The garden becomes a place of wonder and delight.

Gardening is meditation in motion. So if you’re stressed or depressed, the garden can help you, as you help the garden.
~LeAura Alderson,

Gardening is meditation in motion. So if you're stressed or depressed, the garden can help you, as you help the garden.~LeAura Alderson,

A natural remedy for depression, gardening can make your happier.

Yep. It can be that simple. Gardening can be a phenomenal solution for stress relief, anxiety relief and an overall boost to health and happiness. In fact, gardeners tend to be healthier, happier and live longer. #GardeningTherapy #GardenQuote #GardenMeme #Garden #Gardening

Some Benefits of Gardening

Excerpted from Melinda Myers on

Exercise for Bones, Muscles and Heart

Gardeners know it and research proves that gardening is a great form of exercise. You’ll work out all your major muscle groups when raking, digging and planting for an hour. 

Include gardening as a major component of your workout schedule.  You’ll stretch and strengthen muscles while promoting cardiovascular health and maintaining bone mass. 

A University of Arkansas study found that yard work helps to maintain bone density more significantly than aerobics, dancing or bicycling in women over 50. Gardening was next to weight training in benefits! Well… we know that gardeners are heavy lifters!

SOURCE: 2000 Arkansas University Study by Lori Turner[12] [13]

Gardeners have stronger bones! Exposure to sunlight boosts vitamin D production, which aids the body in calcium absorption.
~2000 Arkansas University Study by Lori Turner

Gardeners have stronger bones! Exposure to sunlight boosts vitamin D production, which aids the body in calcium absorption. ~2000 Arkansas University Study by Lori Turner

Lose Weight

And for those of us trying to lose weight, add 30 minutes of gardening to your daily or weekly routine to help shed some extra pounds.  A half hour of raking burns 162 calories, weeding 182 and turning the compost pile a whopping 250 calories.  Gardening several times a week will help keep you and your landscape looking its best.  Anytime you can receive double or triple the benefit from my time and energy, the more likely I am to complete the task.


Don’t let physical challenges keep you from gardening.  Maintain joint flexibility, range of motion and your quality of life by tending your landscape.   Everyone, especially those suffering from arthritis, will appreciate these benefits.  Just include a bit of planning, healthful gardening techniques and pace yourself so you can enjoy your home garden now and for years to come.


Protect your joints and muscles while gardening.  Warm up, just as you would for any workout, with a few simple stretches.  Protect your knees by using a stool, kneeling pad or one legged kneel (other foot flat on the ground and back straight) instead of squatting.

And if kneeling is too painful raise your garden to a comfortable height.  Containers, vertical walls and raised beds look good while allowing those with stiff joints, back problems and other physical limitations to keep gardening.


And no matter what shape you are in drink lots of fluids to stay hydrated during and after you finish gardening.  Always wear sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses.   Since I love the outdoors and skin cancer runs in my family, I visit my dermatologist each year. 

Organize for Efficiency

Plan your landscape for beauty and ease.  Grow moisture-loving plants in beds near a source of water.  Have a shed or storage bin stocked with your favorite tools conveniently located in your landscape.  Add a mailbox or two in remote areas of your yard.  Store a trowel, twine, pruners and other frequently needed small tools in the mailboxes for easy access to needed tools.

Or invest in a tool caddy, garden apron or cart that allows you to carry frequently used tools with you.  Purchase or convert discards like an old golf bag on wheels or wheeled garbage can into long handled tool bags.  I like the small garden stools that provide both seating and tool storage.  They provide relief for the knees and reduce trips made retrieving forgotten hand tools.

Pace yourself so you can enjoy the process and stop and smell the roses. For more cool gardening tips, Melinda Myers has a wealth and breadth of informative videos.[14]

Now, where else can you go to get all these benefits… AND the freshest, most nutritious food on the planet, or the freshest, most beautiful flowers? There’s actually a well-documented “thing” called “horticulture therapy”.[15] But we… you and me… we know about that without those scientific studies, don’t we?[16]

Studies now show what gardeners already know: Gardening is therapy. Gardening reduces stress and anxiety while boosting immunity, health and happiness.

Studies show what gardeners already know: Gardening is therapy and helps alleviate stress, anxiety and depression while boosting immunity, health and happiness.

A Return to Our Roots is a Return to the Soil

By studying the Mycobacterium vaccae, a non-pathogenic bacterium that lives in soil, scientists are figuring out what gardeners already know. We’re connected to the soil and designed to coexist with its inhabitants.

Humans evolved living closely with nature. Losing that connection has led to an increase in allergic and autoimmune diseases.

“The idea is that as humans have moved away from farms and an agricultural or hunter-gatherer existence into cities, we have lost contact with organisms that served to regulate our immune system and suppress inappropriate inflammation,” says neuroendocrinologist, Christopher Lowry.

“That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders.”

Speaking of soil microbes… a certain breed of these are responsible for that wonderful smell of rain called petrichor.

Oh, and one more—super important—thing:

Sunlight and soil are both excellent immunity boosters.
UV radiation via sunlight kills bacteria and inactivates viruses.
Soil microbes increase immunity.[19]

Connecting with the earth and growing things connects us with ourselves.
LeAura Alderson,

Turn Off the News and Build a Garden

Sharing some favorite garden songs for nostalgia and inspiration.

We LOVE this song and theme sung and written by Willie Nelson’s son, Lukas Nelson and performed by Lukas along with his dad and brother, Micah Nelson.

WARNING: There’s one swear word in it, so be forewarned if listening with children present.

Back to the Garden

Yes… that’s what we want to do. Get back to the garden!

This brings to mind this old favorite song… Take me Back to the Garden, and this is a particularly lovely rendition by “Crowder”.

Back to the Garden by Joni Mitchell

And of course, this all time classic by Joni Mitchell. Perhaps like us, you grew up with this one.

Dancing in the Garden

While you’re out there, feel free to dance. No matter how many times we see this video, it always makes us smile.

Guy Dancing in the Garden – AKA – “Soilbae”

Gardeners believe in miracles… they see it every day.
~LeAura Alderson,

Gardeners believe in miracles... they see it every day. #GardeningTherapy #GardenQuote #GardenMeme #Garden #Gardening
Photo by Erda Estremera on Unsplash

Time to get back to the garden!


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